STAWP | Chapter 4

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I stare out the window and wonder where my life went so wrong. An hour ago, I was happy. Well, maybe not happy exactly, but safe. Okay, not safe, either. Content, maybe? I don't know. At least I wasn't someone's slave, unless you count Dad's, but at least I always knew what to expect. I have no clue what POW plans to do with me and honestly, it's better not to think about it. If living with Dad has taught me anything, it's that to survive, you can't dwell on the inevitable.

POW races through town, and I only have a few seconds to glance at my school, the library and the diner for what may be the last time. I wonder what will happen when I don't show up to school tomorrow—or when I miss my shift at the diner—but then push those thoughts aside. Nothing I can do about that now.

Instead, I silently say goodbye to my favourite places, and to Anna and Jen, my human friends. I have no Wolf friends to miss, since Dad and I are Rogues, and others of our kind don't want anything to do with us. Except to buy me as a slave, I guess.

The truck flies out of town and almost topples on its side as POW takes a sharp turn and exits onto the highway. I grip my bag and the seatbelt digs into my shoulder, keeping me in place until the truck steadies. I'm not too worried about POW crashing the car and given his driving, I'd say he's thinking along the same lines; it'd take much more than a simple accident to kill one of our kind. I also doubt POW would care if he totalled the truck or got a ticket. He did just buy me for ten grand, so I'm guessing he has money to throw around. A fact I try very hard not to dwell on as the car flies down the highway.

I steal a glance at the driver's seat, and it's a scary sight. POW's gripping the wheel so hard his knuckles are turning white and his eyes are narrowed as he glares at the road ahead. I quickly turn away and decide it's safer look out the window at the passing scenery instead.

As we get further and further away from town, I start to get more and more nervous. I didn't realize POW planned to take me so far away from home. I guess I just assumed that when I escaped, I'd be somewhere familiar. Instead, we've been driving for ages now and POW isn't slowing down any.

I hold onto my bag, hugging it tight for comfort. It contains all of my possessions: the toothbrush, floss and toothpaste that I risked my life for; my health card; a picture of my mom; and mom's painting wrapped in some clothes: torn jeans, gym shorts, a few t-shirts, a sweater, some socks, underwear, and a bra. Except for the sweats and baggy shirt that I'm wearing, those are all the clothes I own.

I also packed a binder, two pens and my history book. They were already in my bag, since I have a history paper due tomorrow, and they did a great job cushioning the painting. I used to carry my school stuff in a backpack, like everyone else, but it's worn beyond repair so I've had to switch to dad's old duffel. Based on how often he goes to the gym—hint, never—it's not like he'd ever miss it.

The rest of my school stuff is in my locker, and I realize I probably won't ever see it again. I probably shouldn't have bothered to take my history book either, and I guess I can forget about finishing the rest of the paper, too. Once I escape, I'll go to a different school somewhere far away, where POW and Dad can't find me.

"Saffron." I startle at the sound of POW's voice and turn to look at him. He hasn't spoken a word since we got and the road, which, according to the dashboard clock, was over an hour ago. I kind of expected him to stay silent for the remainder of the trip. Guess not.

"Sir?" My voice trembles, partially from fear and partially because I need POW to believe that I'm weak and helpless; so weak and helpless that I would never, ever try to run away.

POW lets out an irritated growl and I tense up, hold my bag tighter and wait. I wonder how quickly I can undo my seatbelt, open the passenger-side door and jump out of the truck. The fall wouldn't kill me, but I'd probably break something. Which is a bad idea, since I doubt I can heal fast enough to shift and get away. Plus, my bag would slow me down, and I can't bear to leave Mom's painting behind.

I take a deep breath and remind myself that being impulsive would only get me killed. I need to wait for the perfect opportunity before I make a run for it. One failed attempt, and I may never get another.

Dad taught me how not to act on impulse, by controlling my emotions, and I focus on doing that now. I push back the urge to run first, then relax my body as I take deep, cleansing breaths. I start at my toes and work my way up, limb by limb, until I slowly feel the tension ebb away.

"Your father," POW interrupts my meditation, "plays poker with humans. Humans whose emotions he can smell! He can smell when they're lying—when they're bluffing. He knows when to play and when to fold." POW growls. "He doesn't play with rich folk, either. No... he convinces poor humans to gamble away everything they own, so they can't support their families or feed their children."

A loyal daughter would probably accuse POW of lying and defend her dad, but I honestly can't say I'm surprised. Dad can't hold down a job, but he still brings the occasional ten or twenty dollar bill into the house. There are bills to pay, household supplies to buy, and obviously Dad's cigarettes and booze. He smokes a pack a day and drinks half a dozen beers, which really add up. Plus, Dad's often gone nights or the occasional weekend. I guess this explains where he's been going.

"I'm sorry," I whisper, because even though I kind of expected that Dad would be up to no good, I still hate being right.

"You were a part of it?" POW yells, looking away from the road to glare at me.


Never look away from the road while driving. Just saying! 

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